Man alive . . . . she’s 35! October 26, 2009
Twas the summer of 1969. We’ve already written about the year 1969 this year in our writing group . . . . at which time I wrote about lots of things that happened that year (that was the year that we moved to our home on 24th Street where we have lived ever since, the year that the kids transferred to Tuckahoe School from Taylor School, the year we joined Overlee Pool) . . . . but purposefully did not mention the most important event of 1969, my 35th birthday, and the festivities surrounding it.
The year of my 35th birthday found us on a family vacation at Turtle Lake in Minnesota. We were visiting with friends . . . . in fact, the kids and I were to be staying with the hostess’s family, while Don and the “guys” flew into a fishing camp on a lake in northern Manitoba for a 6 day fishing extravaganza.
But first we were to celebrate my birthday.
Our kids, ranging in age from just 10 to 4 ½ and the two host children, aged 4 and 7, worked all morning and into the afternoon producing a looooong banner which proclaimed to one and all, “Man alive, she’s 35”. It was gorgeous . . . . a banner that only a mother could love! They hung it up across the front of the house for all to see.
And when they were not working on the banner they were planning the party.
To make life simpler, a bakery ordered and delivered birthday cake was planned. Tis a good thing too, as the festivities were expansive, and when late afternoon arrived, they commenced.
Pontoon boat rides were a special feature of the pre-dinner hour, followed by a hot dog and hamburger feast, with all the trimmings, at the edge of the lake. When the dusk arrived and the famous Minnesota mosquitoes started to swarm, we moved into the house.
T’was then that the real festivities started, with a parade of children past my “throne” . . . . . all the kids dressed in costumes of one sort or another. Morna (aged 10) twirled into the room as a ballet dancer. Richard was a football player. Harold (who was an important 4 ½) was a soldier . . . . wearing a pot on his head as a helmet. Moira (almost 7) followed him . . . . she was a baton twirler. She got so excited when she approached, that she decided to convert the baton to a drumstick, and sounded a resounding gong on the pot that was parading in front of her! Harold screamed . . . . he was wearing the pot remember . . . . and the parade dissolved into a rout. The two host children never even got to march!
But never fear . . . . more was planned. Each of the kids performed . . . . . dancing and baton twirling, somersaulting and head-standing, reciting and singing. It was so sincere and heartfelt . . . and I loved it!
Thankfully it soon became time for cake . . . . a never to be forgotten cake. It was the only cake I had ever seen with the slogan “man alive, she’s 35” on it . . . . encircled by black sugar roses! It appeared to me that some adult with a warped sense of humor had had a hand in the ordering of the cake! I even was able to hazard a guess as to who the culprit had been! It was delicious though.
Soon it became dark outside, and the full moon rose over the lake . . . a beautiful sight.
With the coming of darkness, the mosquitoes abandoned their search for human victims, but we remained in the confines of the house. No longer were we singing and playing, but were all silently and prayerfully watching the small, black and white, flickering TV in the living room.
It had been hinted that there was to be a big gift for me that evening from my dear husband, who for several years had been the “Budgetary Godfather” of NASA. The final product of his watching over NASA from his perch at the old Bureau of the Budget (now the Office of Management and Budget) was about to be witnessed with awe by all the world. This was to be one of his gifts to me, or at least so it was hinted at the time! He now admits that it was pure luck that all “systems were go”. . . . lunar cycle, technological readiness, weather patterns . . . . for the special date! But still says, to quote Mark Twain, that “he went to considerable difficulty and no little expense” to arrange all that!
In the silence of that living room, in the northern lands of Minnesota, we all watched and witnessed the landing of the first man on the moon. What a wonderful event to round out the wonderful day. . . . . what a birthday gift!
But that was not the true end of the day.
After watching the landing on the moon . . . . . and rewatching it many times that evening, we all went down to the end of the now mosquito-free dock. We sat cuddling the little ones, telling them again and again about the “men, not man, on the moon”. We sat at the end of the dock, overlooking Turtle Lake, with our legs swinging over the lake beneath us . . . . feeling their weightlessness, and marveling over the weightlessness of our astronauts . . . . . watching the full moon cross over the skies above us.
The children finally got too tired to stay up. We tucked them into the beds where they I am sure dreamed of the swiss cheese that the moon used to be made of. We now had learned that it was made of rock.
We too began to feel the effects of the day. We took one last look at the heavens and prayed for a safe return for our men in outer space, and soon retired to bed.
It truly was a birthday to be remembered . . . . . . it was July 20, 1969.
The slogan “Man alive, she’s 35!” lives on to this very day. As each decade has passed someone in the family has produced a banner proclaiming “Man alive, she’s blank-five” This year, with all our four children in attendance, Moira offered to “replay” her famous drum roll . . . . . but Harold refused to put on the pot turned helmet! This year, all ten grandkids were in attendance . . . . and produced yet another banner. This one proclaimed “Man alive, she’s 75”. It’s been a great 40 years! But never since the year I turned 35, have I witnessed a moon landing on my special day . . . . it was really special that day.
PS . . . . . Oh yes . . . . there was one more remarkable thing about my 35th birthday. Don left for his week in the northwoods, fishing happily . . . . and returned sporting a full week’s growth of beard. July 20th, 1969 was the last day I was to see his shaven face for the next 17 years!
Mary Crabill . . . . . . October 26, 2009